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Fujian H5N2 Spread To Minnesota Commercial Turkeys
Recombinomics Commentary
March 6, 2015 18:30

State health officials say a strain of bird flu that’s deadly to poultry has been discovered in Minnesota, after the population of a commercial turkey barn was decimated in a matter of days — from a flock of 15,000 to fewer than 100.

Health officials said Thursday that the risk to the general public from the virus — known as H5N2 avian influenza — was “very low,” though there was some occupational risk to workers handling the turkey flock in west-central Minnesota.

The four workers who worked at the Pope County farm — which was not identified — were being monitored. However, no human infections from this strain of bird flu have been detected anywhere.

Health officials said there were four barns on the property — two for raising turkeys and two for laying eggs — and only one of the poultry raising barns experienced the severe “death loss.”

The above comments describe the detection of Fujian H5N2 in a commercial turkey farm in Pope County, Minnesota, which is in the Mississippi Flyway (see H5N2 map).  This strain was initially reported in British Columbia farms in Frasier Valley in December, 2014, which led to increased surveillance in the US.  This surveillance quickly identified three serotypes, in Whatcom County, Washington, which is adjacent to Fraser Valley. 

All three serotypes were identified in collections from birds within 7 miles of the Canadian border, and sequence data showed that the H5N8 was the parental strain, which was closely related to the clade Fujian H5 associated with the outbreak in early 2014 in South Korea, although the US sequence was most closely related to a sub-clade that was discovered in a crane in Japan,

The H5N8 in North America reasserted with influenza from local wild birds to produce H5N2, which had three wild bird gene segments (PB1, NP, N2) or H5N1, with four wild bird segments (PB1, PA, N1, NS).US surveillance largely focused on hunter killed birds in the Pacific Flyway, which produced H5N2 positives in the three northwestern states (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho).  H5N8 was found in the same three states, as well as California, Utah, and Nevada (see H5N8 map). 

This difference in geographic as well as species distribution was likely due to limited testing on populations that had been recently infected with these serotypes because all three serotypes had the same H5 and susceptibility of most bird species would have similar vulnerabilities.The focus on the Pacific Flyway raises concerns that Fujian H5 has spread much more widely in North America. 

The virus likely spread in recent months, but monitoring in wild bird populations has been limited because of the end of hunting season.  Most of the positives were from collections in December and January.  The increased spread in the wild bird populations would lead to more outbreaks in backyard and commercial farms, as wild bird migration to Canada would create new interactions and infections in domestic poultry.

The outbreak in Minnesota may signal the start of a dratic increase in farms over a much larger geographic area.

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